The son of a former BC Liberal MLA went on trial Oct. 4 in Powell River, accused of sexual interference of a person under 16 and invitation to sexual touching of a person under 16.
In B.C. Supreme Court, Kasimir Tyabji-Sandana, 35, pleaded not guilty to both offences, which the Crown alleges took place between July 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016. Tyabji-Sandana was charged in 2020 and arrested after a Canada-wide warrant. Under the Criminal Code, the maximum sentence for conviction is 14 years in jail.
During opening statements before Justice Peter Edelmann and a jury, Crown counsel Jeffrey Young said that email, social media direct messages and text messages will form much of the evidence about the interactions between Tyabji-Sandana and the alleged victim. Young said that Tyabji-Sandana met her when she was a 14-year-old living in Powell River with her family in early 2016. She volunteered on weekends at the sheep farm operated by his mother Judi Tyabji and then-husband Gordon Wilson, but stopped volunteering after she got a paying job in April 2016.
Around the same time, Tyabji-Sandana obtained the girl’s email address and they began emailing back and forth. They eventually spent time together during the summer, at a local festival, on a logging road and at Tyabji-Sandana’s apartment. They watched movies on Friday nights and eventually had intercourse.
“I expect [the alleged victim] will tell you that she does not necessarily recall all of these specific dates of the incidents she’s going to be testifying to, but rather will be giving estimates or ranges,” Young told the jury.
Young said that at the end of July in 2016 they were spending time together and went to Tyabji-Sandana’s residence. It was during this time that they first kissed.
“You will hear that after that kiss, [she] responded to Mr. Tyabji-Sandana by telling him that she was 15-years-old,” Young said.
“I expect one of the potential issues this trial will be Mr. Tyabji-Sandana’s knowledge of [her] age at the time, as well as the steps he took to determine that age. You will hear [her] in her testimony say that she told Mr. Tyabji-Sandana that she was 15 years old throughout 2016.”
Young said he expected her to testify to various accusations she made about Tyabji-Sandana, how what happened between them has affected her and what Tyabji-Sandana’s response was to her.
When the alleged victim, now 22, took the witness stand, she testified that they first met in January 2016, when she was still 14, looking ahead to her 15th birthday in April of that year.
She described the farm where she volunteered, with 45 sheep, and that she would typically clean the stalls, help feed the sheep and take care of newborn lambs. She also described some of the incidents where they kissed, including when Tyabji-Sandana lifted her bra and fondled her breasts.
Young asked her about discussions she had with Tyabji-Sandana about her 16th birthday upcoming in April 2017.
“I believe some of the discussion was had over Facebook Messenger or text, some of the discussion would have been in-person,” she testified. “That it was coming soon within the near future. I remember specifically one time he had mentioned that, for my 16th birthday, he was going to get me a box of condoms.”
Young asked her when the conversation took place, to which she answered “not exactly.” Later she agreed that it happened after she had stopped volunteering at the farm.
The trial is scheduled for another six days.
Judi Tyabji won the Okanagan-East riding in the October 1991 provincial election when the Wilson-led BC Liberals became the official opposition to Mike Harcourt’s NDP government.
Wilson, who won the Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA, named Tyabji the opposition house leader, but he eventually lost the leadership over their affair. They married in 1994 and formed the Progressive Democratic Alliance. After the 1996 election, Wilson joined the NDP and held a succession of portfolios in Premier Glen Clark’s cabinet, including aboriginal affairs, BC Ferries, finance and education.
Wilson and Tyabji returned to the BC Liberals during the 2013 election when they endorsed Premier Christy Clark, who upset the Adrian Dix-led NDP and remained in power until 2017.
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